Sexism exists in esports, and sexism exists in gaming. I don’t think that’s a controversial position to take, and I think that most people agree with that. Every woman who has ever played a competitive video game be it Call of Duty, VALORANT, or our beloved Counter-Strike: Global Offensive can say that at one point, they were a victim of sexism. Maybe it was mild, yet the point still stands that sexism is rampant in our community, and that shouldn’t be controversial to admit. Accepting that it happens is the first step to improving the situation we’re in.
The PGL Major lineup has just been announced, and it’s filled to the brim with revered talent over the entire legacy of CS:GO. The old guard of talent are listed alongside some newer names in observing, and it’s setting the PGL Major up to be one of the best events in the history of our game. However, many noticed a glaring omission; the lineup contains no women whatsoever.
— PGL (@pglesports) October 4, 2021
Let’s be clear here — nobody is saying that women should be hired just for the sake of being women. Likewise, nobody is saying that any of the talent should now be replaced after the careful hiring process that PGL undertook. No; it’s that at least one woman should have naturally found her way onto the talent lineup.
CS:GO has had many talented women involved in the game’s production over the years: esteemed names such as Frankie Ward, Sue “Smix” Lee, and Lauren “Pansy” Scott to name a few. Others have come and gone over the years as well, and that list of three names is by no means exhaustive. It’s not that women should have been hired for the sake of being women, it’s that in a fair hiring process, it’s nearly impossible that a woman would not have been hired. Furthermore, both Eefje “Sjokz” Depoortere and Heather “sapphiRe” Garozzo have said they were not even contacted by PGL.
It’s important to note as well that I don’t think anybody is accusing the PGL organizers of blatant, nefarious sexism. Nobody is accusing anyone of nefarious sexism when it comes to the PGL Major. However, something had to happen if we are to assume that a fair hiring process took place and no women ended up on the final lineup. Generally speaking, this can be an example of an unconscious bias. Unconscious biases are often a major issue in hiring processes and diversity quotas exist in many industries in order to counteract it.
Fixing sexism in esports from the top down
Fixing sexism in esports requires working from the top down. The experiences women have in a game that they queue up on FACEIT or in matchmaking are a direct result of the normalization of negative behaviors. To those who abuse women in video games, women are often seen as “trespassers” that are encroaching on their territory. When these behaviors go unchecked, many women who even reach the top will have experiences like the ones Julia “juliano” Kiran had.
Tbh, i have been in this scene for a long time and even at my peek when i could compete with men, i was told from some pro/semi-pro that some guys in a team didnt want to play with a girl. And this is how it was, believe it or not. Ive always said that the key is mixed teams.
— juliano🧸 (@juliakiran) October 23, 2019
Why then, does it need to be fixed from the top? As women get more involved in CS:GO at the top, it legitimizes their place in the game in the eyes of those who may be more susceptible to engage in sexism. If women are a part of the game and are active in the game, then it no longer comes across as “trespassing”. The best way to fix the issue of sexism in video games is to make it clear to those who perpetrate it that women are capable of being just as knowledgeable, just as skilled, and just as interested in video games as males are.
As Frankie Ward put it best, it’s pretty important to have at least one woman in the biggest CS event of the year given that there are some brilliant women in the space. Women aren’t only involved in the scene, but there are also women in the audience and women playing the game too. To love Counter-Strike is to want to see it grow, and one of the best ways that it can grow is through fairness and egalitarianism.